Rating: **** 4/5 Stars
Founded in 2008 by composers Andrew Aversa and Will Roget II, Impact Soundworks is an ever-growing company which has been filling various sonic gaps with their innovative and affordable electronic, acoustic and hybrid instruments. Their Ventus Winds series has included lovely renditions of pan flutes, ocarinas, an Indian bansuri, the tin whistle and the Shakuhachi. Now they add the always evocative and useful Duduk. As a Duduk player myself, I was curious how this instrument could compare to my experience of the real thing.
Upon loading Ventus Duduk in Kontakt the first impression users may get is that Impact Soundworks have packed quite a bit under the hood of such a modestly priced instrument. The 'Phrases' and 'Phrases DFD' instruments contain hundreds of pre-recorded phrases, ranging from short to moderately long in duration. The waveform for each phrase is displayed, and users can toggle between playing the phrases forwards or backwards, as one-shots, or as loops repeating from the beginning or end or moving back and forth through the waveform. The reversed phrases often sound quite excellent (and, due to the nature of the instrument, not 'reversed' or odd sounding at all) while a number of interesting musical effects and phrase extensions are immediately achievable by looping a sample first forward and then backwards. The high-quality samples are hit-or-miss in nature, as is generally the case with such phrase collections.
In the versatile legato patch, dynamics are controlled via the mod wheel, while the range of bend is immediately adjustable on the front panel; the most realistic results can be achieved by turning it all the way down, to receive only the recorded half-step bend above and below (triggered via velocity). Here users can also switch between mono and poly modes. The level of dynamics and vibrato are immediately adjustable to the right. I also had fun plugging in my wind controller, right-clicking to 'learn MIDI CC' for breath, and quickly achieving a very idiomatic level of control. Both fast and slow legato patches worked effectively, though a bit of tweaking was required to adjust excessive bleed between sustained notes.
Also on the front panel is an intriguing three-voice harmoniser, as well as the ability to change from a standard 12-note chromatic octave to a number of both western and more exotic scales. Micro-tuning is also available on a per-note basis. Another fascinating utility is the attacks/releases and ornamentation tool, which allows users to randomise attack and release effects along with ornaments. The console view allows users to mix and apply a number of effects and plug-ins to the close and room mics as well as the master for the instrument, while the 'TACT' articulation map allows for customisability of every available articulation option.
In the end we have a beautifully performed and playable duduk virtual instrument, with great customisability at a steal of a price.